Family Dinners: Where Manners Meet Mom Guilt

As an etiquette coach, I teach that the absolute best place to teach table manners is during a family dinner.  As parents we are told that family dinners will make our kids happier, healthier, emotionally stronger, better students and, quite possibly, be their best chance at acceptance into an Ivy League school.  Yet, when I think about family dinners, the thought is all too often followed by that particularly strong brand of guilt known as mom guilt.

What is mom guilt?  Let me answer by first asking you to picture the Super Mom in your group of friends. (Or maybe you are a Super Mom.  In which case, I’m honored to have you visit my blog.)  A Super Mom is that rare breed of woman who bakes her own bread, grows her own veggies, and hosts Martha-Stewart-worthy cocktail parties while her obedient children sleep soundly in their well-decorated bedrooms.  She is a rock star at work while meticulously chronicling her family’s life in scrapbooks, training for her fifth marathon, and of course teaching her breast-feeding baby to read.  Yes, we know these women.  Mom guilt is the realization that we are not one of them.  It is the realization that we only have so much time in the day to fulfill all our obligations to family, friends, work, and self.  It is the ugly truth that, at the end of the day, something is going to be left undone.

Family dinners can be a trigger for mom guilt.  Why?  Because family dinners have to fit into schedules already filled with late work nights, Scouts, ballet, homework, play-dates, swim lessons, and quality time.  Not to mention that vow we made not to feed our children fast food.  (Conveniently forgetting the fact that we made that vow prior to having any actual children.)   Our expectations do not fit our reality!

So, in my quest to make family dinners a time to teach manners and reconnect: I propose a challenge designed to realign expectations and reality.  I challenge you (and me) to:

  1. Serve dinner family style three times a week.  (We can do three times, right?)
  2. During family dinner, to focus on one or two, age-appropriate table manners. (Which ones? Check out Laying a Foundation for Good Manners: Basic Courtesies)
  3. Remember that healthy cooking doesn’t have to mean lengthy preparation.  (Check out Eating Well for healthy dinners in less time.)
  4. While at dinner:  Enjoy your family.  Put your napkins in your laps.  Have a conversation.  Relate.  Keep your elbows off the table.  Reminisce.  Laugh.  
  5. During the other four nights, set aside the mom guilt.  (Even Super Moms use drive-thru’s or serve sandwiches on the run after a soccer game.)

Good-bye family dinner induced mom guilt.  Hello sense of accomplishment. 

(Psst … want to know a secret?  If you have Mom Guilt it simply means you love so much that everything matters.  Only Super Moms have that kind of super-love.) 

2 thoughts on “Family Dinners: Where Manners Meet Mom Guilt

  1. I love the line about teaching the breast-feeding baby to read. Your advice is practical and realistic, and it’s presented with humor, which we can’t have too much of. Plus, it’s always a treat to read strong writing, whatever the topic. I’m signed up!

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